Underlining its interest in maintaining peace and stability, freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, India on Thursday asserted at an East Asia Summit meeting that the code of conduct being negotiated for the region should not prejudice the legitimate interests of third parties and be fully consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The assertion made by Secretary (East) Riva Ganguly Das at the East Asia Summit Senior Officials’ Meeting (EAS SOM) via video conference comes amid tensions in the region due to growing Chinese assertiveness in the region.
The meeting discussed ways and means to strengthen the leaders-led EAS platform and to make it more effective and responsive in the face of emerging challenges, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement. During the meeting, the Secretary (East) also underlined India’s interest in maintaining peace and stability, freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in keeping with international law. She also conveyed that the code of conduct for the South China Sea being negotiated should not prejudice the legitimate interests of third parties and should be fully consistent with the UNCLOS, the statement said. For several years, diplomats from Southeast Asian countries and China have met to discuss the implementation of a code of conduct for the South China Sea.
The senior officials at the meeting exchanged views on the current regional and international developments, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-pandemic recovery, South China Sea, Korean peninsula, developments in Myanmar and terrorism, the MEA said. The meeting also reviewed the status of commitments made by participating countries under the EAS framework and the progress in the implementation of the Manila Plan of Action (2018-2022), it said.
In her remarks, Das expressed India’s appreciation for the leadership role played by Brunei Darussalam as the current Chair of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and ASEAN-led mechanisms. She underlined the key role played by EAS as a leading mechanism for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and reiterated India’s support to make it stronger and more responsive. Emphaising the importance of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region with ASEAN at its centre, she noted the strong convergence between ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) which provides common ground for enhancing regional cooperation. On developments in Myanmar, Das expressed India’s support for the ASEAN process and conveyed that as a friend and close neighbour of Myanmar, India will continue to play a constructive and meaningful role in resolving the current situation there. She also put forward India’s stand on terrorism among other issues. The meeting was chaired by Permanent Secretary of Brunei Darussalam, Emaleen Abdul Rahman Teo, and saw the participation of senior officials from 18 EAS countries.
The East Asia Summit is a premier forum in the Asia-Pacific region dealing with issues relating to security and defence. Since its inception in 2005, it has been playing a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical and economic evolution of East Asia.
Apart from the 10 ASEAN member states, East Asia Summit includes India, China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Russia.